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How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

How to Use Siri with a Third Party iPhone Calendar

It’s easy to feel – and be – more productive with Siri. But, how many times have you wanted to use Siri’s phenomenal ability to create a quick appointment, only to be thwarted by your third-party calendar? Tired of the work-around of creating the appointment with Siri on the fly, and then copying/pasting it into a third-party calendar? Read on, because I’ve tested the following solution over the last month or so, and it is consistently effective.

The Problem

The problem is Siri doesn’t talk to third-party calendars, like Pocket Informant (which is what I’ve used for years). As much as I love Siri, I don’t love it enough to give up Pocket Informant for the native calendar. But I also love Siri’s ability to create appointments on the fly, regardless of what I’m doing, as long as I can be heard clearly enough. I got tired of using Siri to create notes and then pasting them manually into the calendar. That’s hardly an elegant solution, and none of the others generally available in the discussion groups work well, either.

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The Solution

Knowing that Pocket Information syncs quite well with Google Calendar, and that the native iOS calendar also syncs quite well with Google calendar, it occurred to me that I ought to be able to figure out how to get the two calendars to talk to each other using Google Calendar as the go-between. It took a few tries across half an hour or so to get it working the way I wanted, but from there it was all smooth sailing to tweak a few settings.

Here’s what I did, using a combination of Google’s recommendations for setting up syncing in general, and a few tweaks I tried along the way:

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Set up Google Sync with your iOS device

  1. On your iPhone, go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars, select Add Account, select Microsoft Exchange.  Yes, really. (If you already have an Exchange account set up and aren’t running iOS 4 yet, either upgrade to iOS 4 or search the Google help for additional instructions on setting up another sync type.)
  2. Enter your complete Google email address in the Email field, leave Domain blank, enter your full address as the email address, and put your password in the appropriate spot.  Two-step password users should use an application-specific password rather than the primary password.
  3. Press Next, press Cancel if “Unable to verify certificate” appears, enter “m.google.com” in the Server field, and press Next again.
  4. Select the Google services you want to sync (Mail, Contacts, and/or Calendar).  In this case, you definitely need Calendar and you’ll need mail if you want to respond to meeting requests using this mechanism.  New Eventsneeds to be enabled in your Google Calendar Settings. (To enable New events, sign in to your Google Calendar using the web browser on your phone or computer. Go to Calendar Settings > Calendars  and click on the Notifications for the calendar you want to sync. Under Email check New events (and any of the other Invitation settings you want enabled, and click Save.)
  5. At this point, there are several options for syncing (and retaining or deleting) the contacts on your iOS device. Since I set this up on mine long after establishing my contacts database on the phone, I wanted to retain my iCloud contacts. In order to do that, select the Keep on my iPhone option when prompted. This will also allow you to keep syncing with your computer via iTunes. The other options allow you to variously delete and replace the contacts on your phone with those from your Google account, or replace them in the other direction.

Set up Google Sync with the iOS calendar

At this point, we now need to tell the phone to sync the iOS calendar with Google.

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  1. Open Safari on your iPhone and go to http://m.google.com
  2. Sign in and select the device you’ve associated with your Google account.

    Set up Google Sync with your third-party calendar

    You only need to do this once, so if you’ve already done it (as I had), you don’t need to do it again. The instructions will be calendar-specific, so there are far too many calendars available to list them all here. If your calendar supports Google sync, the built-in help or a quick search online will return the instructions.

    Since I had many customized categories in Pocket Information and these don’t sync to Google (yet), and there was no way to effectively get them all to the iOS calendar or to tell Siri to use them, I have to do this step manually. However, since I already conduct a calendar review as part of my personal productivity routine, assigning the single category I typically use to flag particular appointments isn’t a big deal for me.

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    Fix the alarms and categories in iOS

    Since I wanted Pocket Informant to be the alarm manager as my primary calendar, I needed to silence the alarms, popups, notification center behavior, and badge counters in the native iOS app just to cut down on clutter and keep things neat.  That took only a few minutes, and a bit of frustration as I dealt with duplicate alarms because I chose to make all of these changes during a time of the day where I have recurrent reminders set. I also changed the default colors for the iOS default categories to match the same colors I use in Pocket Informant, which further reduced the changes I needed to make when minor final tweaks to a voice-created appointment were processed.

    Once consistent snag I seem to encounter is recurrent alarms that were set before I implemented this automatic multi-sync solution don’t always go off. An irritating, but effective, solution is to delete the recurrent appointment and recreate it, which seems to have solved the problem in every case where I’ve tried it.

    You can read more about Siri’s effectiveness in CM Smth’s Lifehack article, 30 Days with Siri.

    Featured photo credit: Annette Shaff / Shutterstock.com and inline photo by junyaogura via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)<

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    Last Updated on February 15, 2019

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

    Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

    Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

    Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

    So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

    Joe’s Goals

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      Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

      Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

      Daytum

        Daytum

        is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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        Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

        Excel or Numbers

          If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

          What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

          Evernote

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            I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

            Evernote is free with a premium version available.

            Access or Bento

              If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

              Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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              You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

              Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

              All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

              Conclusion

              I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

              What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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